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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 04-22-08, 11:20 AM   #1
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Where are the Passenger Trains in America?

Forget car free & car light. It's much worse than anyone thought.

From James Howard Kunstler daily blog.....
"Now get this: we are sleepwalking into a transportation crisis. As I already said, the airline industry is dying. The price of petroleum-based aviation fuel is killing it. And forget the fantasies about running it on bio-diesel or used french-fry oil. Driving cars will not be an adequate substitute, either. It's imperative that this country gets serious about restoring the passenger rail system."

http://www.kunstler.com/index.html
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-22-08, 11:27 AM   #2
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Oh ... hmmmmmm ... what did Machka say over in the $4/gallon gas thread .... let's see:

Is $4 a gallon gas enough??

And that isn't the first time Machka has said similar things on this forum.
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Old 04-22-08, 11:31 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Oh ... hmmmmmm ... what did Machka say over in the $4/gallon gas thread .... let's see:

Is $4 a gallon gas enough??

And that isn't the first time Machka has said similar things on this forum.
Glad to see that the Canadians are at least talking about this issue.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-22-08, 11:42 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tightwad View Post
Glad to see that the Canadians are at least talking about this issue.
Unfortunately that's all they're doing.
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Old 04-22-08, 11:43 AM   #5
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Tightwad,
Read the same article...Passenger Rail in the US is non existent out side of a few main corridors. And don't even get me started on the bus service! I can remember even as recently as the mid '80s still using Greyhound/Trailways to get places and it was reasonably priced and still fairly efficient. Now it is freakin'g joke, probably could get their fast hitch hiking...

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Old 04-22-08, 11:44 AM   #6
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I'm just wondering how long it'll take the railroads to figure out that it makes business sense. With the short-haul airlines more or less disappearing, its just a matter of time.
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Old 04-22-08, 11:47 AM   #7
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There is Amtrak in the US ... at least it is relatively accessible and affordable. Here in Canada, our VIA rail is so expensive only the wealthy can use it.
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Old 04-22-08, 12:23 PM   #8
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Where are the Passenger Trains in America?
11 hours delayed because they're sitting on a siding just east of Clines Corners New Mexico awaiting a BNSF to pass.
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Old 04-22-08, 12:48 PM   #9
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The problem with Amtrak is that it wasn't making enough money and for that reason, it's not capable of running in certain areas. Freight business is going up due to fuel prices, perhaps the commuter trains can take advantage of that as well. One can only hope.
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Old 04-22-08, 02:00 PM   #10
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The problem with Amtrak is that it wasn't making enough money and for that reason, it's not capable of running in certain areas. Freight business is going up due to fuel prices, perhaps the commuter trains can take advantage of that as well. One can only hope.
Amtrak had a hard time maintaining a profit because they were pretty much expected to build and maintain their own rail lines... imagine how much money the trucking companies would have made if they had to build and maintain all their own roads....

Amtrak couldn't afford to maintain rail ways in any areas but the very busiest, so everywhere else they lease from the freight railroads... and the freight trains get priority on those lines.

Pretty hard to compete in that situation, huh?
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Old 04-22-08, 02:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by bmclaughlin807 View Post
Amtrak had a hard time maintaining a profit because they were pretty much expected to build and maintain their own rail lines... imagine how much money the trucking companies would have made if they had to build and maintain all their own roads....

Amtrak couldn't afford to maintain rail ways in any areas but the very busiest, so everywhere else they lease from the freight railroads... and the freight trains get priority on those lines.

Pretty hard to compete in that situation, huh
?
Good point. Most Americans believe that Amtrak is heavily subsidized by public funds, but this is far from the truth. Amtrak is a lot like PBS TV-- managed by a quasi-public corporation but funded by "passengers like you... Thank you." I think the industry that gets the biggest government handout is the trucking industry. Airlines aren't far behind with their free airports and terminals.
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Old 04-22-08, 02:48 PM   #12
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A couple years ago at some festival they displayed some rail cars from the old times. One of those cars was a mail sorting car. Apparently postal workers rode along with the mail cars and sorted the mail as it traveled so that at the destinations the letters were presorted saving time on the total delivery time. I had the impression that the mail cars were on passenger trains because that was the focus of the display. If Amtrak could cut a deal with the post office like that then it might be able to have another income stream. By saving the sorting time over truck or air delivery mail by rail might even be the fastest way. That mail car was before the time of zip codes so the sorters might be more efficient nowadays.
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Old 04-22-08, 03:44 PM   #13
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I have taken Amtrak from Little Rock->Chicago->NYC. Me and my girlfriend had a bedroom from Chicago to NY.

It was more of a government subsidized vacation than an actual get somewhere trip.

I am gonna correct some people here.

You can very much go across country on Amtrak, and much more than a select few corridors are served. The problem is the route structure certainly is not geared toward intercity rail.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...schematic3.png

Amtrak has never made a profit, even though it was intended to do such when Nixon signed it into existence. It is heavily subsidized but probably small compared to roads and planes.

Amtrak owns the North East Corridor, for the most part and that is it. Most of Amtrak's routes operate on the tracks owned by the freight lines. Legally Amtrak has right of way over these freight lines and at a deep discount but law and reality are often two different things.
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Old 04-22-08, 03:51 PM   #14
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Awesome.

If there is any doubt "Build it, they will come", I present the following...
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File Type: jpg photo.jpg (41.2 KB, 119 views)

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Old 04-22-08, 03:55 PM   #15
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The reason Amtrak was created in the first place is because the railroads couldn't make money on passenger travel. As long as the freeways are full of cars and the airports are full of planes, that isn't going to change.

Amtrak comes through Dallas. They go through Grand Junction (and that's a scenic area). So we once checked on making the trip between them. Turns out you have to go through Chicago to get from one place to the other- see the map above. So a 2-hour flight plus 3 hours in a rent car turns into a 24-hour train marathon. Not good. And it wasn't cheap, either.

People always look at Europe or Japan as models of how trains should work. The problem is, those places have more people in smaller areas, fewer autos, etc., and what works there won't necessarily work here.
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Old 04-22-08, 03:59 PM   #16
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Here's what wikipedia says about the causes of decline in passenger rails service, which occurred mostly between 1946 and the 1960s

Quote:
Literature suggests that the causes of the decline of passenger rail were complex. The industry was hobbled by government regulation and labor inflexibility, which undermined passenger rail just as the industry faced an explosion of competition from flexible and subsidized automobile and airplane transportation. These for-profit railroads were structured to sell access to elaborate, efficient roads at a profit; they lost in the competition for passengers to parallel, publicly-funded, non-profit turnpikes, air strips, and highways in the sky.
And more about subsidization of competitors:

Quote:
While passenger rail faced internal and governmental pressures, new challenges appeared that undermined the dominance of passenger rail: highways and commercial aviation. The passenger rail industry wilted as government backed these potent upstarts with billions of dollars in construction.

Beginning roughly in the WWI era, cars became more attainable to most Americans. This newfound freedom and individualization of transit became the norm for most Americans because of the increased convenience. Government actively began to respond with funds from its treasury and later with fuel tax funds to build a non-profit network of roads not subject to property taxation[14] that rivaled and then surpassed the for-profit network that the railroads had built in previous generations with corporate capital and government land grants. All told between 1921 and 1955 governmental entities, using taxpayer money and in response to taxpayer demand, financed more than $93 billion worth of pavement, construction, and maintenance.[10]

In the 1950s, a second and more formidable threat appeared: affordable commercial aviation. Government at many levels supported aviation. Governmental entities built sprawling urban and suburban airports, and funded construction of highways to provide access to the airports.
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Old 04-22-08, 04:04 PM   #17
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Unfortunately that's all they're doing.
Well truth be told, Alberta is less Canadian as it is Texas north.
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Old 04-22-08, 04:04 PM   #18
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Good point. Most Americans believe that Amtrak is heavily subsidized by public funds, but this is far from the truth. Amtrak is a lot like PBS TV-- managed by a quasi-public corporation but funded by "passengers like you... Thank you." I think the industry that gets the biggest government handout is the trucking industry. Airlines aren't far behind with their free airports and terminals.
Interesting that you mention that. This story appeared in the paper just yesterday:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...042002409.html

Quote:
RADFORD, Va. -- When Bob Billingsley hired on with Norfolk Southern railway 31 years ago, he was a rookie on work crews that were closing unused lines as the nation's economy turned its back on the railroads.

Now he's in charge of raising the roof of a Norfolk Southern tunnel in southwestern Virginia to clear headroom for the double-stacked container cars that have become the symbol of the industry's sudden surge thanks to a confluence of powerful global factors.

"For years, we were looking for ways to cut costs to increase profits," said Billingsley, as a train rumbled by. "Now, we're building business to increase profits."

The freight railway industry is enjoying its biggest building boom in nearly a century, a turnaround as abrupt as it is ambitious. It is largely fueled by growing global trade and rising fuel costs for 18-wheelers. In 2002, the major railroads laid off 4,700 workers; in 2006, they hired more than 5,000. Profit has doubled industry-wide since 2003, and stock prices have soared. The value of the largest railroad, the Union Pacific, has tripled since 2001.

This year alone, the railroads will spend nearly $10 billion to add track, build switchyards and terminals, and open tunnels to handle the coming flood of traffic. Freight rail tonnage will rise nearly 90 percent by 2035, according to the Transportation Department.
They mention Amtrak as well - saying that:

Quote:
2007 was Amtrak's fifth consecutive year of increased ridership, up 6 percent from 2006.
All of this being said, the railroads were in a pretty tough shape not that many years ago. Too much deferred maintenance, too many places where they went to single-track to save money. At least it is headed in the right direction.
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Old 04-22-08, 04:10 PM   #19
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Amtrak is unfathomable.
I just check what it would be to travel from Atlanta to Portland and back.
A minimum of a seven days on the train and would cost over $700.00 for a coach seat.

If I wished to lay down during the trip (sleeper seat) the price jumps to $1,300.00 ish.
And for a sleeping room the price is $5,000.00 ish.
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Old 04-22-08, 04:39 PM   #20
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Amtrak is unfathomable.
I just check what it would be to travel from Atlanta to Portland and back.
A minimum of a seven days on the train and would cost over $700.00 for a coach seat.

If I wished to lay down during the trip (sleeper seat) the price jumps to $1,300.00 ish.
And for a sleeping room the price is $5,000.00 ish.
That is it in a nutshell. And did you factor in the layovers? I am currently using Amtrak between Charleston, SC and Fayetteville, NC. But if I had to go too many other places it wouldn't work. I just wish I had found it earlier. I can leave my job site at 0930 on a Friday morning and can be within 17 miles of my house by 1300 (or having a late lunch with my parents, who live about a mile from the Fayetteville Amtrak station) I can't drive it that fast and it costs about half of what my fuel costs would be for the same trip. Return trip is similar on Sunday afternoon. Only thing I haven't figured out is the price disparity between the early train and the late train...$40 difference.

However! we also are taking on a project in Cleveland, OH...FAHGEDABOUDIT 22 hours on the train...one way, cost is about $320 (coach seat) round trip, I can drive it for about the same amount in half the time. And better yet is airlines. Current ticket cost is around $300 and I can be there in under 3 hours

Also might add, we also have a project in Richmond, VA...trains for the next 2-3 weeks between FAY and RVR are sold out! Kind of sucks if you are depending on it to get back and forth on a weekly basis.

Somewhere, somehow it needs to be fixed. Apparently train travel is "greener" than both airplane and automobile. Hopefully as fuel costs increase we will see an increase in passenger train service and the revival of some of the "lost routes". I certainly don't mind riding the train, if it is reasonably close in cost/convenience to other modes of transportation.

Aaron
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Old 04-22-08, 05:01 PM   #21
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I agree with Aaron. If you're carfree and planning an interurban trip, I suggest you check bus and plane fares before you book on Amtrak. You're likely to save a lot, especially with the bus. You might also get there sooner, with more convenient schedules.
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Old 04-22-08, 05:08 PM   #22
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i would like more passengers trains, but i would really like to see more freight trains first. it makes no sense having long haul trucks moving stuff around when trains can do it far more efficiently.
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Old 04-22-08, 05:09 PM   #23
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The reason Amtrak was created in the first place is because the railroads couldn't make money on passenger travel. As long as the freeways are full of cars and the airports are full of planes, that isn't going to change....
I recall reading a magazine article some years back, that noted that the ONLY Amtrak run that was consistently profitable was the Boston-DC run. And if you have been paying attention--that's the only run they've upgraded to a high-speed rail line.
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Old 04-22-08, 05:18 PM   #24
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i would like more passengers trains, but i would really like to see more freight trains first. it makes no sense having long haul trucks moving stuff around when trains can do it far more efficiently.
They are...in the article above that ericy posted a link to, it says they are planning to spend $10 billion on infrastructure upgrades in the next year with $148 billion needed by 2035. Maybe I need to get a job with the railroads!

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Old 04-22-08, 05:24 PM   #25
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They are...in the article above that ericy posted a link to, it says they are planning to spend $10 billion on infrastructure upgrades in the next year with $148 billion needed by 2035. Maybe I need to get a job with the railroads!

Aaron
true. this is one reason why warren buffet is investing heavily in railroads. and he usually knows where things are heading.
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